Measles cases hit 228 confirmed: Fraser Health officials
Unvaccinated children are particularly at risk of measles. (PHOTO SUBMITTED)
Local post-secondary schools are “knocking on wood” and bracing for a measles outbreak that has now reached 228 confirmed cases since public health officials first detected the spread.
Dr. Lisa Mu of the Fraser Health Authority said on Monday the outbreak has spread so quickly because the measles virus is transmitted through the air and by touch, and has primarily impacted a religious community in the Fraser Valley that reject vaccinations.
The vaccine is typically given after a child reaches the age of one, but is not mandatory in B.C.
At the B.C. Institute of Technology, spokesman Dave Pinton said the school has set up an in-house vaccination station.
BCIT was told by health officials mid-month that someone with measles was in the school on March 6 or 7. Fortunately, Pinton said, that’s been the only confirmed case so far.
“We let everyone in the Burnaby campus know this was taking place. We sent out 14,000 emails to students … we sent out 2,000 emails to staff, just to be on the safe side,” he said.
At Simon Fraser University, health and counselling services director Martin Mroz said he’s had two students come in so far with possible symptoms. The university took test samples from both — they came back negative for the virus.
“While we might have had some people come into our health clinic and say they thought they might have it … so far we — knock on wood, thank God — haven’t had any cases,” Mroz said.
Mu said the measles have primarily affected the areas around Chilliwack, Agassiz, Mission and Hope. She asks those who are infected to stay home, and those unsure if they’ve been vaccinated to check.
“If somebody who is unvaccinated comes into exposure, there’s a very high chance they’ll develop the disease,” Mu said.
She added measles symptoms begin with cough, runny nose and irritated eyes about a week or two after exposure, followed by a rash that starts in the face but spreads.
About 1% of cases could have serious medical consequences. Those who have compromised immune systems — either due to drugs or disease — are especially at risk, as are young children and pregnant women.